by Paul Jensen,
Assassination Classroom found its sweet spot last week, delivering some very strong comedy by sending Koro Sensei and company on a class trip. It's nice to see a show hit the mark, but questions always remain regarding whether or not it can carry that momentum through from week to week. In this case, the answer is a very big yes.
The school trip continues this week, and a few storylines that were seemingly forgotten in the previous episode finally come back around. Things start off with the class E students splitting into tour groups and trying to lure Koro Sensei into the crosshairs of a professional sniper. As we've come to expect, the assassination attempts don't get anywhere close to succeeding. The episode's second half covers some fairly standard class trip antics, with the students arguing over the class's most attractive members and trying to sneak a peek into the bath. Thankfully, the series breathes some fresh life into these old setups thanks to the unique qualities of its cast.
From beginning to end, this is a very funny episode. Even the throwaway joke that runs before the opening credits is delightfully silly: Koro Sensei sings an elaborate jingle about how to draw his simple, cartoonish face. That sets the mood for the rest of the episode, which consistently plays to Assassination Classroom's strong points. The sniper in the first story arc is an accurate spoof of the soft-spoken marksmen that populate action shows of every vintage. He's competent enough for the audience to believe that he's actually a professional and just over-confident enough for us to enjoy watching Koro Sensei outfox him at every turn. As the sniper grows ever more serious about making the shot, it becomes more and more obvious just how much Koro Sensei enjoys messing with him. The whole sequence boils down to a simple game of cat and mouse, but there's enough creativity in the details and enough skill in the execution to make it a blast to watch.
The show continues to put its own spin on old scenarios in the second half, but it adds a bit of self-awareness to the mix. It's obvious that Assassination Classroom is wise to its own tricks when some of the girls from class E announce their plan to spy on Koro Sensei in the hotel bath. Without missing a beat, the guys instinctively protest that spying on people in the bath is their job. Not only does the show change up an old fanservice comedy routine, it calls itself out for doing so. It's a quick joke in the midst of more elaborate shenanigans, but it captures Assassination Classroom's sense of humor perfectly. While performing much broader comedy, it sneaks in an extra layer of detail that helps it distinguish itself within its genre.
Both of this week's stories end on thoughtful notes, but the series does a far better job in this area than it has in the past. Some of the logic in Koro Sensei's conversation with the sniper is iffy, but the end result feels earned. We can see the sniper gradually make the decision to retire, and that process helps the outcome feel more natural than many of the abrupt turnarounds made by the class E kids. It's the most convincing depiction of Koro Sensei's teaching ability that we've seen thus far, so it's ironic that it happens with someone who isn't even in his class.
There's also an unexpected amount of subtlety in the way the show drops a bombshell about Koro Sensei's past. There's no big reveal, no dramatic music, no expository sledgehammer to drive home the twist. All we get is a passing remark from Karasuma that suggests Koro Sensei once had a very human number of arms and legs. It's refreshing to see that Assassination Classroom trusts its audience to fill in the blanks.
What started off as an amusing little action comedy has slowly evolved into a top-notch piece of entertainment. Assassination Classroom is firing on all cylinders here, delivering genuinely funny comedy with just the right amount of substance to hold it all together. This is shaking out to be a very strong season, with a number of shows telling compelling stories and offering up interesting ideas, but in terms of simply being fun to watch, Assassination Classroom sits near the top of the list.
Assassination Classroom is currently streaming on Funimation.
Paul Jensen is a freelance writer and editor. You can follow more of his anime-related ramblings on Twitter.
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